The True Cost of Gutting Foreign Operations

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a move intended to reduce our $16.7-trillion national debt, the House Appropriations Committee recently voted to cut President Obama’s foreign operations budget request from $52 billion to $41.1 billion. Their decision is one in a growing trend to slash diplomacy and aid spending, which equates to 8 percent of the defense budget and comprises 1 percent of the federal budget.

The Committee’s decision, if ratified by the House, will completely de-fund multiple key programs, like the Complex Crisis Fund, Conflict Stabilization Operations programs and USAID’s Office of Conflict Mitigation and Management.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) immediately followed the Committee’s decision with a scathing reminder of the risk of slashing aid. They warned that diminished aid spending will jeopardize the success of US military operations, like the 1980s campaign to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan that resulted in a Taliban take-over due to lack of follow-up development efforts.

As the House considers its position, the CFR indicates that the trillion dollars spent in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade hangs in the balance. Following the withdrawal of US troops, the UN is reporting record levels of violence and instability in the region. Barring diplomatic and developmental intervention, the fragile situations left by our military will collapse.

The military implications of slashing aid are so apparent that some of its most outspoken advocates are senior military officials themselves. Admiral James M. Loy, speaking of the State Department and USAID, said in March that “the U.S. has under-invested in these very tools that are vital to our national security, to our economic prosperity and to our moral leadership in the world.” General James Mattis, Commander of U.S. Central Command, brusquely reported to the Senate a few days later, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Two weeks ago, a report co-authored by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and diplomat Richard S. Williamson declared that aid dollars do indeed go farther toward making peace than military spending. They demonstrate that, in recent years, long-term development investment, proactive diplomacy and preventive application of military force have defused fragile situations in Libya, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and South Sudan.

In 2005, the US joined the world in unanimous endorsement of the Responsibility to Protect, an international doctrine that requires powerful states to protect vulnerable populations. The resolution was made in the wake of genocide in Darfur, Sudan. As a similar crisis mounts in Syria, Albright and Williamson call on US Congress to account for failing to reflect their commitment in their budget choices.

John Mahon

Sources: Boston Globe, Council on Foreign Relations, Politico, Humanity United

Photo: House Appropriations Committee

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